Chasseur [sha-sur; Fr. sha-sœr] (a French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 term for "hunter") is the designation given to certain regiments of French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 light infantry
Light infantry
Traditionally light infantry were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. Light infantry was distinct from medium, heavy or line infantry. Heavy infantry were dedicated primarily to fighting in tight...

 (Chasseurs à pied) or light cavalry
Light cavalry
Light cavalry refers to lightly armed and lightly armored troops mounted on horses, as opposed to heavy cavalry, where the riders are heavily armored...

 (Chasseurs à cheval) troops, trained for rapid action.


This branch of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 originated during the War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

 when, in 1743, Jean Chrétien Fischer
Jean Chrétien Fischer
Jean Chrétien Fischer was a German-born soldier in the French service.-Biography:...

 was authorized by the Marshal de Belle-Isle to raise a company. It was called Fischer's chasseurs.

Chasseurs à pied

The Chasseurs à pied were the light infantrymen of the French line. They were armed the same as their counterparts in the regular line (Fusilier
Fusilier was originally the name of a soldier armed with a light flintlock musket called the fusil. The word was first used around 1680, and has later developed into a regimental designation.-History:...

) infantry battalions but were trained to excel in marksmanship and in executing manoeuvres at high speed. The other light infantry unit type, the voltigeurs
The Voltigeurs were French military skirmish units created in 1804 by Emperor Napoleon I.-Etymology:Voltigeurs hold their name from their originally conceived role of cavalry-transported skirmishers: the voltigeurs were intended to jump onto the croup of cavalry horses in order to advance more...

, specialised in skirmishing and advance screening of the main force. The chasseurs could also be called upon to form advance guards and scouting parties alongside the voltigeurs.

Chasseurs à cheval

The Chasseurs à Cheval, a type of French light cavalry
Light cavalry
Light cavalry refers to lightly armed and lightly armored troops mounted on horses, as opposed to heavy cavalry, where the riders are heavily armored...

 date from 1779. For much of their history these regiments were generally not held in as high esteem as their infantry counterparts, or the identically armed (but much more lavishly uniformed) hussars. They were frequently used as advance scouting units providing valuable information on enemy movements. Both Napoleon's Imperial Guard and the Royal Guard of the Restoration
Bourbon Restoration
The Bourbon Restoration is the name given to the period following the successive events of the French Revolution , the end of the First Republic , and then the forcible end of the First French Empire under Napoleon  – when a coalition of European powers restored by arms the monarchy to the...

 each included a regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval.

During the French occupation of Algeria, regiments of Chasseurs d'Afrique
Chasseurs d'Afrique
The Chasseurs d'Afrique were a light cavalry corps in the French Armée d'Afrique . First raised in the 1830s from regular French cavalry posted to Algeria, they numbered five regiments by World War II...

were raised. These were light cavalry recruited originally from French volunteers and subsequently from the French settlers in North Africa doing their military service. As such they were the mounted equivalent of the Zouaves.

Modern French Army

The modern French Army comprises bataillons of Chasseurs à pied (mechanized infantry : 16e BC),Chasseurs-Alpins (mountain troops : 7e, 13e, 27e BCA) and regiments of Chasseurs à cheval (1er-2e RCh and 4e RCh : light armored regiments). In addition one regiment of Chasseurs d'Afrique (training unit : 1er RCA) has been re-raised to commemorate this branch of the French cavalry. Since May 1943 there has been a "Régiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes" (1er RCP).

All of these units have different traditions :
  • Bataillons de chasseurs are light infantry units created after 1838. Some of these battalions were converted to specialized mountain units as Bataillons de Chasseurs Alpins in 1888, as an answer to the Italian Alpine (Alpini
    The Alpini, , are the elite mountain warfare soldiers of the Italian Army. They are currently organized in two operational brigades, which are subordinated to the Alpini Corps Command. The singular is Alpino ....

    ) regiments stationed along the Alpine frontier.

  • Régiments de chasseurs are units of the "Arme Blindée Cavalerie" : armoured units. The basic organic unit is called regiment and not bataillon to avoid confusing cavalry and infantry chasseurs.

  • The airborne infantry units called Régiments de chasseurs parachutistes were created in 1943 with airborne troops from the French Airforce (GIA or Groupe d'Infanterie de l'Air), who were transferred into the Army.

  • Chasseurs Alpins are the elite mountain infantry of the modern French Army. They are trained to operate in mountainous terrain and to undertake urban warfare.

Although the traditions of these different branches of the French Army are very different, there is still a tendency to confuse one with the other. For example when World War I veteran Léon Weil
Léon Weil
Léon Roger Weil was one of the last two surviving veterans of the battle of Val-de-Marne in the First World War...

died, the AFP press agency stated that he was a member of the 5th "Regiment de Chasseurs Alpins". It was in fact the 5th Bataillon.

External links

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